The cold of winter 2014 continues. A strange a sight along back roads encased by walls of plowed snow – raccoons, skunks and woodchucks?!
A lot people think these are hibernating animals. To the casual observer who does not see them all winter or stumbles across one out “sleeping” in the snow their assumption is usually that raccoons hibernate like bears. As the length of daylight decreases raccoons begin feeding less while spending more time in their dens. Their metabolic rate slows down causing a state of torpor to set in.
Torpor is described as inactivity, lethargic indifference, with suspended physical activity and dormancy. Raccoons in torpor who venture out are susceptible to predation from aerial predators owls, hawks and eagles, coyotes, bobcats, and wolves to name a few. These torpor raccoons can easily be approached by humans and even be picked up. Some coons get too tired before returning to the den and fall asleep where they are; a very dangerous thing to do out there.
Hanging out a tree like this dangerous with hungry predators lurking about. After I left this raccoon a group of 3 red shouldered hawks swooped in, knocked him from his den and proceeded to feast on fresh raccoon.
My camera is old and not so good. When the hawks moved in I was too far away to get suitable pictures. Rather I watched with my binoculars. This hawk was bullied away by the remaining 2 hawks. It was not clear if they were mates and the departing hawk was the odd man out or if 3 was a crowd.
Many of my acquaintances have labeled me crazy for going out on subzero winter days. I keep trying to explain if you are not there you will not see what is going on out there. That being said there are times while my face is suffering cold burn, each snowshoe step is weighted down in snow powder and if one tips over… Getting up in soft waist deep snow is a challenge… Perhaps those friends have a point?